Sunday, 12 January 2014

Review: The QuizUp App!

A tiny handful of the topics available.
The Ones That Got Away's jet-setting lifestyle has kept it a bit busy of late, so no weekly pub quiz fails to talk about today. Instead I thought I'd stick up a quick mention/review of one of the reasons I've not had time to write blog posts: QuizUp!

QuizUp is an app (currently exclusive to iOS devices but supposedly coming to Android by the end of the month) on which, you'll be surprised to hear, you can play quizzes. There are of course plenty of apps which let you play quizzes, but this is one of the best I've encountered. It's well implemented, slickly designed, and boasts a colossal number of questions across a truly heroic range of subjects. There are the basics, from simple General Knowledge through Geography, History, Science, etc., to more specific offerings such as Mixed Martial Arts, Woody Allen, and Sex and the City. (Thank heavens for the Oxford comma.) If you fancy mixing a bit of brain training into your quizzing, then you can even dabble in mental arithmetic and word puzzles to keep things fresh.

"If"? Or "When"???
The real selling point, though, is the ease - and speed - with which you can challenge your friends to a test of quizzing mettle. Meanwhile, if your quiz-obsessed lifestyle somehow doesn't leave you time for friends, there are always people from all over the world online to take you on instead. Who knows, maybe there's a hollywood blockbuster waiting to be written about love blossoming from a shared love of Fruits and Vegetables trivia.

The mechanics of the game itself are straightforward. Both players are faced with a series of seven questions, each of which has four possible answers. You get ten seconds to answer and a correct response is worth ten points plus however many seconds you had left (rounded up) on your clock. So if you recognize the flag of the Seychelles in under a second, you'll score the full 20 points, while if you're a bit slower you may drop a point or two that could prove crucial later on. The final question is worth double points, in fairly transparent deference to the quiz show trope of weighting later rounds to minimize the risk of the game being decided early.

Post-game statistics allow for quiet
contemplation (also crying).
I've already alluded to several positives of the app, but on the mechanics of gameplay itself a lovely aspect is that you can see when your opponent 'buzzes in' and whether they've got the question right while you're trying to think. This allows for some mild meta-gaming as you can either put pressure on your opponent with a quick correct answer, or completely eliminate it with a wrong one. A further option is asynchronous play, so if someone isn't online when you want to test their Desperate Housewives knowledge you can do the quiz immediately yourself and they can play the same questions later.

Other more minor features include achievements/challenges (such as attaining a perfect score of 160, or coming back to win after a bad start) and 'titles' you can unlock by levelling up in the various categories. These don't particularly interest me (and the levelling up seems to be a matter of how much time you want to put into the game rather than any sort of ranking system, which is a shame) but are ultimately so peripheral to the game itself that they don't get in the way. The app is constantly updating its repository of questions, too, so if you somehow exhaust the current corpus of questions (spoilers: you won't), new content will likely be just around the corner.

One of my favourite questions in the
history of pretty much everything.
There are, however, some downsides, and for me the biggest one is the fixed game length. Seven multiple choice questions is probably a good number for your typical random game against someone, but among friends I'd really like the option to play much longer rounds. All too often a game is decided by one player's blind guess (a possibility made more likely by the final question's doubled value) which inevitably feels somewhat anticlimactic. A 'custom challenge' mode would, for me, take it from an excellent distraction to a serious quizzing tool. Another limitation is the occasional question whose answer is simply wrong, which is a touch sloppy, but nevertheless forgivable given the game's scale and price.

Otherwise, this is an excellent app, and for the princely sum of £0.00 you really can't go wrong. If you do pick it up, and fancy a challenge, I can be found on there under the name 'Raccoon', while my fellow Only Connect champions exist under the rather more obvious (i.e. boring) Hywel Carver and Jamie Karran. Don't worry if you find yourself addicted though, just call it an investment for future trivia glory (or at least the occasional bit of beer money at your local pub quiz).

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